Biography of Marco Valerio Marcial (ca. 40-ca. 104)

Writer and Spanish poet, born about the year 40 in the town of Bilbilis, modern Calatayud (city of the Spanish province called Tarraconensis), and dead to the 104, perhaps in the same Bilbilis. The cognomen Martialis or martial would derive, apparently, they were born on March 1. After educated in Hispania, marched to Rome in 64, famous year because it was the fire of Rome by Nero; It remained there, relationship with other intellectuals of Hispanic, such as Seneca and Lucan, until these and others fell into disgrace after the Pison conspiracy of the year 65. In the Urbs, he/she remained nearly thirty-five years, because we know that he/she left it in 99. After living as a poet for hire in search of a rich patron for years (which justifies the praise directed to various patricians and even the same Domitian), his fame grew, and with it, received honors, tax exemptions and the right to have slaves, the ius trium ius liberorum (but never married) and even an appointment as military Tribune. He/She took home in Rome and a villa in Nomento.

Related to all court, since the Emperor until the last of his acolytes, also maintained close contact with many writers (particularly, with Pliny the younger, Silius Italicus, Juvenal and his countryman, Quintiliancalagurritano), although it is known that its relations with Estació were really bad. All this universe is reflected in 1,561 epigrams he/she composed between 86 and 98; at the end of his life, according to the testimony of Plinio the younger, he/she sang the Palinode, regretted some of his poems and decided to return to his homeland to take charge of a villa donated by a such Marcella; After a long trip to Hispania, which paid for the same Pliny, it died about the year 104.


The first documented works is the Liber Spectaculorum, written around 80, which celebrated the opening of the Colosseum or amphitheatre Flavio by the Emperor Titus; in this book, are preserved 33 fragments in which describes some of the fighting that took place on that site. His technique was taking in Xenia (book 13), series of poems of a single elegiac couplet, of those who have survived 127, which were made up to entertain the Saturnalia. Apophoreta (book 14), Marcial continues with their poetic gifts for all budgets, this time in a convivial atmosphere. Both types belong to an era in which did not have the fame that soon to accompany him. His celebrity only came it through his Epigrammata, with whom formed 12 books (Epigrammaton libri), composed between 86 and 98. The author conducted the division into books at some point in his life; In addition, wrote a brief but revealing prologues to prose books 1, 2, 8 and 12, as well as a few brief lines to book 9.

Altogether 1.561 epigrams, most has been written in elegists disticos, with the model of great poets such as Ovid and Catullus; elsewhere, the hendecasyllable falecio ranks second (238 compositions), while the third corresponds to the coliambo, escazonte or lame yambo (77 compositions), followed by another different meters and infrequency. Almost all known texts respond to a satiric impulse, although throughout the also beautiful and senses epitaphs yambico Metro (a girl or a dog), epitalamios and other compositions of more personal content, that commitment by the leading. In general, martial describes the intricacies of the human being in satirical key (hominem page nostra sapit, 10. 4.10: 'our book known to man'), although criticism reaches only to types, never to specific individuals in the Rome of his day (by his epigrams are prostitutes, poets, lawyers, doctors, etc.), from the moment in which martial availed themselves of figurative names (parcere personis, uitiis dicere, 10. (33-10); because this way of proceeding, came to assert that their darts could only be mild (ludimus innocui, 7.12). If characters are different, the themes are also very varied and are impregnated by his wit and a trend marked toward the lascivious (something manifesto throughout the first book) which, according to his own words, limited only to the literature: Lasciua est nobis page, try uita (1. (4-8). The sleaze and lasciviousness are absent, that Yes, the eighth book, pure homage to Domitian.

With his particular technique, the bilbilitano delighted his contemporaries (was copy of his works everywhere, to heed his own testimony in 1. 1); on the other hand, marked the way to his immediate followers, like Juvenal, and the distant, Ausoniusand Claudianus Apolinar Sidónio; centuries later, after the discovery of an important Codex in Monte Cassino by Boccaccio , in 1360 and, above all, after the Prince Edition of 1471 was fascinated by the first humanists (which saw Marcial at a Hispanic with a remarkable wit, a true homo facetus aroused the pride of his countrymen Spanish); ultimately, Marcial still entertains us and held captive. If the humanists recovered the technique of the Epigram, readers from the 15th century onwards found in its characteristic brevity with substance a literary ideal that would give good sample early humanism, Renaissance classicism and the Baroque conceptismo, in latin and romance. Neoclassicism put the genre again in force, which explains that authors of the stature of Juan de Iriarte diesen cultivation and that, with martial in mind, they reach this famous definition:

The bee-like, so it causes pleasure, the epigram has of serpequeno, sweet and pungent.

As soon as is standard in the epigrams of martial; in fact, in these nugae or ioci is, in reality, his ideal, the brevitas, facing speech extensive (as maintained at 9.50); its sweetness is derived from his literary tino, of the delight that produces a good literary work; ultimately, its poignancy is the result of his satirical vein (which not shuns, but on the contrary, the Rocky, as it holds in a personal poetics that runs through the whole of its work and is, as noted, in the first book), often reinforcing in the word or the final phrase, usually referred to as surprising as ingenious. In the present, martial poetry is highly appreciated in all aspects; in this respect, all have old moral judgments as the spill by Menéndez Pelayo in his history of aesthetic ideas: "If broken this poet freedom not offended many of his verses the chaste ears of Christian piety, were worth estimated between the older vates of those times". This comment just keeps standing on final compliment, which is strengthened in so many others, as the one that describes him as "exquisite cultivator of the purity of form".


Maria Dulce name ESTEFANIA, ed., Marcial, complete epigrams, Madrid, 1991.

Vicente CRISTOBAL, "Marcial in Spanish literature", in proceedings of the Symposium on Marco Valerio Marcial, poet from Bilbilis and Rome. Calatayud, May 1986 (Zaragoza, 1987), II, pp. 147-210.